(p. A9) HONG KONG — Under normal circumstances, Patrick Wu, a college student from Anhui Province in China’s east, knows better than to talk to his parents about politics.
Mr. Wu, a senior at a university in Beijing, is a self-described skeptic of the Chinese government. His parents are local government officials.
But recent months have been anything but normal. The coronavirus outbreak, and its political implications, have been all that Mr. Wu, 21, thinks about.
. . .
“Things just got out of control. You could see people dying at home,” Mr. Wu said. “I just felt like more people should know about this, and I should open myself to more conversations about this — at least with my parents, who I can trust.”
His parents, from the start, resisted. “Their first reaction was shock and rejection: ‘How could this happen in Wuhan? It must be fake,’” Mr. Wu recalled.
After they were persuaded that the outbreak was genuine, they rejected that Chinese officials had at first covered it up and questioned how it could have exploded so quickly.
Were people who eat wild animals to blame, they asked after the virus was linked to a Wuhan market that sells wildlife. Or maybe the United States planted the virus, his parents said, considering an unfounded conspiracy theory peddled by a top Chinese government spokesman.
“I think the gap in information is too big, and sometimes I alone can’t fill it,” Mr. Wu said.
Slowly, though, he felt his mother relenting. The sheer number of online posts about the virus outpaced even the government’s army of censors. Rage and despair found their way into his parents’ social media feeds, and when a whistle-blower doctor, Li Wenliang, died of the coronavirus, prompting an online revolt against censorship, it was Mr. Wu’s mother who alerted him to the news.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 31, 2020, and has the title “INSIDE THE OUTBREAK; Quarreling in Quarantine and Bridging a Generational Divide.”)